Sir Michael Palin remembers ‘strange and silly moments’ with Terry Jones

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Sir Michael Palin and Terry Jones, pictured in 2016

Terry Jones, who has died at the age of 77, has been remembered by Sir Michael Palin as “one of his closest, most valued friends”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s The World at One, the actor and broadcaster recalled some of his fond memories of his fellow Monty Python member.

“Terry was first of all an enormous enthusiast. He threw himself into things with such passion and such energy, and he really refused to take on things which didn’t excite him and which didn’t feel different from what else was around.

“Part of his warmth was his love of all sorts of things and comedies – he knew an awful lot about the silent film comedians. There were so many aspects to Terry, but I would say enthusiasm and passion were the two main words that described him best.

“We had some very strange and silly moments together over the years. He was a very keen cook and I remember one time he was shucking oysters at his home. He loved entertaining people, he was the most marvellous entertainer, but unfortunately he nearly cut his finger off. Blood was spurting out of his finger and we were sent down to the nearest hospital.

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Jones “had some wonderful ideas for characters”, Palin said

“Terry had to keep his finger above his head so we entered the hospital, myself and Terry, with his hand up in the air like he was permanently asking for permission to do something. As we walked through casualty everybody laughed, it was wonderful. They couldn’t believe the Pythons had visited them in this miserable place.

“I loved writing with Terry because he was very creative. He had some wonderful ideas for characters, he was very funny, he was very good at plot. That was something I was less good at, and when we did the Ripping Yarns, Terry was the one who was very keen to give each story a meaning and a significance.

“He felt everything he did was somehow important and had to be thought about. That was our creative working relationship, and also we both enjoyed a pint – that was very nice and we had lovely times together.

“Another bizarre thing we did [came] when I was first writing with Terry. He lived down in Waterloo and they opened a new men’s toilets on Lambeth Walk. Being a local celebrity, Terry was asked to be the first person to use them!

“So Terry and I went down to the new toilets on Lambeth Walk with the band playing behind us. The only other person with us was the Mayor of Lambeth.

“So we enjoyed life together. He was a terrific person to enjoy things with. He really did increase the value of almost everything you did.

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Palin and Jones wrote Ripping Yarns and both appeared in the Tomkinson’s Schooldays episode

“It was an awful form of dementia for someone who loved debating and cajoling and arguing and playing different characters, to be reduced to being able to say very few words, as he was over the last two or three years.

“I lived fairly nearby and I used to go see him quite a lot, and though his dementia was shutting him down there were little moments you absolutely treasured – maybe just a glance or a touch on the hand or something like that.

“Quite recently I went round with a book we’d written together, Dr Fegg’s Encyclopaedia of All World Knowledge. I started reading a few little bits out of it and for the first time for a long time I heard real laughter, that little wispy laughter of Terry’s.

“I thought that was a marvellously encouraging thing to happen, but what was best of all was that Terry was only laughing at the bits he’d written. I thought, that’s defying dementia for you.”

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